If you are someone who owns several properties that you rent and hire out, then let’s take a look at your legal responsibilities w.r.t smoke alarms.
An owner who rents his/her property under a residential tenancy agreement needs to have mains-powered smoke alarms before the property is made available for rent or hire. Let’s look at what makes a compliant smoke alarm.
As per regulation 60(2), a compliant smoke alarm --
- Meets the requirement of Building Code of Australia (BCA) which is applicable at the time of installation.
- Is functional and in working order.
- Is always connected to the mains power.
- Was not installed more than ten years ago.
Smoke alarms that were installed in buildings constructed after 1st May 2015 should be interconnected if there are more than one alarms.
Smoke alarms that were installed or replaced after 1st May 2017 should follow the Australian Standard 3786:2014. So, before you buy a smoke alarm, make sure to look for the AS 3786:2014 mark.
Let’s look at a few reuirements for maintaining a smoke alarm:
Per Regulation 62, you, as a Landlord, are required to ensure that every installed smoke alarm in your property is:
- Always connected to the mains power supply (exemption: if you have the permission to install smoke alarms with 10-year battery)
- Not more than 10 years old or has not reached its expiry date
Now that you know that there are a few maintenance rules w.r.t. smoke alarms, the question is how will you maintain a smoke alarm?
DFES recommends a few guidelines to help you to maintain the smoke alarms on your rental properties:
- The smoke alarms should be secured and installed firmly per the Building Code of Australia’s requirements. For example, it is not acceptable to double side tape it.
- The power source for the smoke alarm should be working. The mains powered smoke alarms should come with a green light to indicate that they are connected to the mains power and it should be visible while standing underneath the alarm, too.
- Make sure to conduct routine tests of the smoke alarms every six months.
- Remove the dust and cobwebs (if any) from around the smoke alarms by vacuuming it with a soft brush.
- Discourage insect nesting inside the smoke alarms by spraying insect spray around (not inside) the alarm.
- Check expiry dates of the smoke alarms. They need to replaced every ten years.
- Make sure to replace the batteries every year. The mains-powered smoke alarms usually have backup batteries -- either a 9V battery which needs to replaced annually or a 10-year rechargeable battery. For further instructions, you need to refer to the manufacturer’s guide.
- You need to do this routinely at an interval regularly and keep a record of the same.
To disconnect the mains powered smoke alarms, you need a licensed electrical contractor. For other smoke alarm maintenance tasks, you don’t require a licensed electrician.
DFES also allocates responsibility to the tenants, when it comes to maintaining the smoke alarms:
- Tenants should check the smoke alarm every month so that they are familiar with the alarm sound.
- Tenants should not tamper with the smoke alarms or obstruct it in any way to restrict the airflow or disturb the paint.
While you are looking after the maintenance of the smoke alarms, it is good to keep a note of the following points:
- Smoke alarms will issue a warning ‘beep’ if the battery needs replacing.
- Smoke alarms should not be painted over under any circumstances.
- If you have any queries regarding the smoke alarm, you can reach out to the manufacturer.
What should you do if you are a tenant and you notice that there is no smoke alarm in the property you have rented?
It is required by law for the owner to install mains-powered smoke alarms before you move in. They should not be less than 10 years old and should be in working order.
If you notice that there is no smoke alarm in your rented property, then you need to talk to your landlord or property manager. If speaking to them does not solve the issue, then you can speak to the local government. They would inspect the property and issue a rectification notice, infringement notice or prosecute for any breaches. For non-compliance, fines or penalties can be imposed.
If you have any other rental property dispute, you can visit the Consumer Protection website or call 1300 304 054.